I. The importance of criticism and the recognition of flaws
By nature, social movements will receive critique. They will receive opposition, and the participants will receive invalidation.
A movement will receive critique from those who care about it, those who want to see the movement go farther, be more inclusive, and truly promote betterment for all people. Those who critique something do so because they want to see it succeed. Just like a peer review essay in a high school English class, ‘critique’ is the keyword.
Criticism is healthy, not an attack. Criticism is not something to hide from, shy away from, or avoid; social movements would be incomplete without criticism. It takes people asking the important questions, pointing out the fatal flaws, and playing devil's advocate to actually achieve change.
Yes, a certain group or someone can organize a specific march, demonstration, or protest. However, just because this group or someone organized that specific event does not mean that they own that entire movement. It is impossible to be a true advocate for change but be unreceptive to criticism and differing opinions. A movement is on behalf of a group much larger than a dozen people sitting in a conference room, a movement is on behalf of all those affected, not just those that have the means to organize response.
When somebody says they have a critique, sit down, listen, take notes, and make sure that all viewpoints are represented and heard. Criticism is an imperative analysis of what can be better, and all social movements can be better. Social movements are not truly movements unless they are inclusionary.
Even if a movement does not receive critique, there is always room for improvement and change. As Roxane Gay said in her book, Bad Feminist, “Feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed. For whatever reason, we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard where the movement must be everything we want and must always make the best choices. When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.” This same logic applies for all movements—humans are flawed, and subsequently, all movements will be flawed as well.
II. Opposition and invalidation
A movement will be met with opposition simply on the basis of it being a movement. There would be no need for a movement if there was no opposition. This relationship is symbiotic; each needs each other to function. The goal of the movement is to eventually conquer the opposition, the goal of the opposition is to eventually conquer the movement.
Opposition should fuel the fire of the movement. The rudimentary thought process should be: there are people out there who don’t want me (or someone I know) to have my (or their) rights.
Critique is different than opposition which is different than invalidation. Invalidation comes from personal attacks on those involved in a movement. Invalidation comes from being ignored because some movements are trendier than others.
Invalidation is calling David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, a “crisis actor”. Invalidation is Black Lives Matter protesters not receiving nearly as much coverage or respect as the March for Our Lives protesters, simply based off of the color of their skin.
Invalidation often stems from a lack of privilege. People who have the privilege of protesting something (meaning that what they are protesting is not immediately threatening to them) often do not receive the same invalidation that those who are not protesting out of privilege receive.
Some movements and protests, such as March for Our Lives and The Women’s March, are trendy. I’m not saying that these movements are not legitimate and important, but many of the people that attend these marches and post “social justice warrior” photos of themselves on Instagram would not dare step foot at a Black Lives Matter protest, or advocate for queer rights, or educate themselves on the facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—no, these movements are far too polarizing. These movements are not as trendy; these movements do not get as many ‘likes’ and comments and approval on Instagram.
III. The real movement
And the real movement happens offline; it happens when people choose to make their voices heard at the ballot, write to their representatives, or boycott companies that are in allyship with evil. Social media is a vehicle and platform for change, but voting is the true weapon of any movement.
The real movement will happen at the polls this November, because midterm elections are just as important as Presidential elections, even though they are not as talked about. And if you cannot vote, you encourage others that can to do so. You write to your elected officials, you make your voice heard in other ways.
Make it so the movement cannot be ignored. The real movement happens when the movement cannot possibly be ignored: it is too important.
Article from the Resist/Revolt Issue, buy the print issue here